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Too Early To Talk Compensation - Burton

It’s too early to talk about compensating New Zealand servicemen used as guinea pigs by the British military in 1950s nuclear experiments, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Mark Burton said this afternoon.

Mr Burton is expecting a preliminary report from New Zealand Defence officials on what they know about the tests by midday tomorrow, but said a full report, which would involve contact with British and Australian authorities, would take some time to do properly.

One of the things the Veterans’ Affairs Minister wanted to establish was whether there was consent given by the servicemen, who crawled and walked through fallout zones just three days after nuclear detonations, and whether that consent was informed.

Mr Burton and Acting Prime Minister Jim Anderton said the historical context needed to be considered.

“This may very well have been an exciting thing to be a part of in the views of the day,” said Mr Anderton.

Mr Burton said he expected full cooperation from Britain and Australia.

The Veterans’ Affairs minister said he expected any New Zealanders found to have taken part in the experiments who are still alive to have appropriate health checks.

The New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans Association, who are investigating taking legal action against the British Government, says it is unlikely any servicemen who took part in the experiments are still alive, and says their life-spans would have been limited by radiation exposure related illnesses.

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